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The Chennai Super Kings gave their play-off hopes a massive lift by winning a last ball thriller in Kolkata with Dwayne Bravo smashing the final ball of the match for 6 to steer his side to an incredible win. The two teams' batting efforts mirrored each other with both opening partnerships going into the late 90s before middle order collapses brought the run rates crashing down. Some late hitting from Debabrata Das helped Kolkata post a disappointing 158/6 a poor score considering Gautam Gambhir kicked things off with an exceptional 62 from 43 balls. Chennai's openers in response were just as good as Kolkata's with Michael Hussey half-century leading the way. The match got tight though when CSK lost 4 wickets for 30 runs in 7 overs as KKR roared back into the contest. Rajat Bhatia had 9 runs to protect in the last over, and brought that down to 5 from the last ball, but Bravo connected big to leave Eden Gardens absolutely stunned into silence. The win brings CSK level on points with Kolkata, albeit having played a game more. Kolkata of course dropped from 2nd to 3rd place earlier today as a result of Mumbai's win in Bangalore.
The Chennai Super Kings stormed the spiritual home of Indian cricket, hoping to inflict a crucial defeat on the Kolkata Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens as the hunt for play-off spots in the IPL intensified. Chennai got the first element of business right, winning the toss and opting to field first.
There were a few surprise edits to both sides with Faf du Plessis returning to the Chennai line-up, but at the expense of fellow South African Albie Morkel, as the defending champions slightly surprisingly opted to strengthen their batting unit. Perhaps the fact that the Kolkata track has been rather slow all season affected their decision, and with three full-time spinners and Suresh Raina to boot, they would look at a predominantly spin attack.
Kolkata also brought back the injury prone Laxmipathy Balaji and recalled Marchant de Lange, who was surprisingly dropped after picking up 3 wickets a few games ago, while Brendon McCullum also returned to don the gloves with Manvinder Bisla and unfortunately also Shakib Al Hasan making way.
Kolkata made a bright start to the game, posting a handy 50 for no loss from the mandatory powerplay. Brendon McCullum made another slow getaway, while Gautam Gambhir blitzed out of the blocks, racing away to 36 in 21 balls. Ben Hilfenhaus made a rare poor start, conceding 17 from his opening two overs, a feat matched by Shadab Jakati, while Ravichandran Ashwin was expensive too, going for 15 from his opening two overs.
The runs continued to flow at an electric pace for Kolkata who raced along to 86 for no loss at the half-way stage of their innings with Gautam Gambhir registering his 6th half-century of the season in just 31 balls.
With the game quickly slipping from their grasp, Chennai stormed back into the contest as Kolkata's soft middle order once again crumbled. McCullum fell for 37, with Kolkata one shy of a hundred run opening partnership, run out due to a mix-up between the two batsmen. Gambhir followed his opening partner back 4 balls later, bizarrely bowled off his bat, pad, pretty much everything after he came down the wicket to Jakati. Had the ball not hit the stumps, he would have been stumped by a country mile. The skipper though had done his job, making a handy 62 from 43 balls.
Jacques Kallis (4), Yusuf Pathan (11) and Manoj Tiwary (12) followed shortly after as Kolkata lost the plot in the second half of their innings, losing 5 wickets for 28 runs in nearly 6 overs. Debabrata Das made a useful 19 from 10 balls, while Laxmi Ratan Shukla contributed 9 from 6, helping Kolkata post a slightly under-par 158/6 from their 20 overs.
The rejuvenated Murali Vijay and Michael Hussey got the Super Kings off to a flier, posting an excellent 58 for no loss in the first 6 overs. Gambhir's captaincy style, so similar to Ganguly's appeared rigid as he stuck to his usual approach of bowling particular players for a pre-determined number of overs, rather than adapting to the situation unfolding in front of him. Sunil Narine though came on early in the piece and snuck in 2 quiet overs for 9 runs to keep KKR in the piece.
Michael Hussey switched from accumulation to attack after the powerplay, moving through the gears like a Formula 1 driver with the chequered flag in sight. Huss was fortunate to escape a dead-certain run out as Sunil Narine at short midwicket through in flat and hard aiming for the stumps instead of finding Balaji, who was backing up, given the veteran Australian a life. Hussey capitalized by bringing up his half-century in the same over off 35 balls. In the very next over, Vijay received a life with McCullum dropping a thick outside edge off Yusuf Pathan. Riding their luck, Chennai were well on the road to victory at 96/0 from 10 overs.
Sunil Narine redeemed himself by bringing his side storming back into the contest removing both openers within the space of three deliveries to bring the Eden Gardens back to life. Hussey was caught at short fine-leg top edging the spinner for 56, while Vijay was bowled for 36.
Suresh Raina and Faf du Plessis were given the responsibility of ensuring Chennai's innings did not mirror Kolkata's where the middle order collapsed after a terrific start. However, Raina failed to get the job done, and was run out for just 8 while attempting a second. Skipper MS Dhoni came out to replace his protege, and took on the mantle of getting his team past the finish line. Sunil Narine meanwhile finished his spell, getting through his 4 overs conceding just 14 runs.
Rajat Bhatia kept the pressure on the visitors by sneaking in a 5 run over where he also snared Du Plessis for 13 to leave the match tantalizingly poised with Chennai needing 27 from 12 balls for the win.
MS Dhoni took on young Protea Marchant de Lange in the penultimate over and hit him for two fours and a six on consecutive deliveries to swing the match decisively Chennai's way. With just 9 needed from the last over, the match appeared Chennai's to lose. And lost they almost did. Dhoni opted not to take a second run on the first ball, in an attempt to keep the strike, but was cleaned up by Rajat Bhatia's second delivery. The Delhi Ranji batsman turned expert KKR bowler produced an exemplary 5 deliveries to push the equation up to 5 needed to win on the final ball, and then lost a match he should have closed out, handing Bravo a knee high full toss which the West Indian clubbed over long-on to give Chennai an incredible win.
A pumped up Chennai will next head over to beautiful Dharamsala where they collide with the Kings XI Punjab on Thursday, while Kolkata, who have now slipped to third in the IPL table will attempt to resurrect their campaign against the Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede Stadium a day sooner.
Kolkata Knight Riders: G Gambhir (c), B McCullum (wk), J Kallis, M Tiwary, Y Pathan, D Das, LR Shukla, R Bhatia, S Narine, L Balaji, M de Lange.
Chennai Super Kings: M Vijay, M Hussey, SK Raina, MS Dhoni (c & wk), R Jadeja, F du Plessis, S Anirudha, D Bravo, R Ashwin, B Hilfenhaus, S Jakati.
Kolkata Knight Riders 158-6 (20 overs, 7.9 rpo)
G Gambhir 62 (43) S Jakati 2-26
B McCullum 37 (29) R Ashwin 1-26
Chennai Super Kings 160-5 (20 overs, 8 rpo)
M Hussey 56 (39) S Narine 2-14
B McCullum 36 (24) R Bhatia 2-33
Chennai win by 5 wickets
File Photograph Copyright: Michael Henn
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